China can do better on human rights, President Xi Jinping has admitted as he came under fire from British journalists on a four-day visit to Britain.
He insisted China "attaches great importance to the protection of human rights" but crucially, he added: "We know that there is always room for improvement."
He was speaking shortly after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei accused David Cameron of sacrificing "essentiall values" for the "short term gain" of £30bn of business deals and warned that Britain would not have a "bright future" if it continued to succumb to China simply to reap the economic benefits.
Under President Xi's leadership more than 250 human rights have been imprisoned and Amnesty International has said he had presided over the biggest crackdown on human rights in a generation.
Holding a press conference after a working lunch with Mr Cameron at Downing Street, President Xi was asked what he would say to members of the British public who were uneasy about Britain doing business with a country that was "not democratic, is not transparent and has a deeply, deeply troubling attitude to human rights".
President Xi said: “China attaches great importance to the protection of human rights. We combine the universal value of human rights with China’s reality and we have found a part of human rights development suited to China’s national conditions.
"With regard to protection of human rights, looking around the world we know that there is always room for improvement. All countries need to continuously improve and strengthen human rights protection to meet the need of the time and the people."
Mr Weiwei told Sky News: "For British I have to say, if they sacrifice very essential values just for this short-sighted gain in business, this is wrong, this is absolutely lowering their standards and it is not going to have a very bright future."
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